CUTANEOUS CHEMOTHERAPY TOXICITY - Ma revue n° 009 du 01/06/2021 | Espace Infirmier

L'infirmière n° 009 du 01/06/2021




Émilien Mohsen  

Professeur d’anglais aux Ifsi de Nancy et auteur de Maîtriser l’anglais médical, L’Anglais médical pratique et L’Anglais en ergothérapie, aux Éditions Lamarre

A trainee nurse (N) is carrying out her internship in the onco-dermatology service of a hospital. She’s discussing some biopsychosocial aspects of care with her tutor (T).

T: It’s your first internship in cancerology, am I right?

N: Indeed. And I’m keen to be on duty.

T: Ok, let’s begin by checking some basic theoretical knowledge about cutaneous chemotherapy toxicity. Do happen to know anything about that?

N: I did some research on the subject, in order to be on the page.

T: Great. So, can you tell me what you have learned yet?

N: Sure. It’s that chemotherapy can have some repercussions on skin and its appendages, including hair, fingernails and other body parts. These symptoms should be detected and treated as early as possible, either by aesthetic or medical care, or both, so that the patient can comply with the treatment.

T: By the way, we’ll exclude transcutaneous or mucosal toxicity today, and we’ll just be dealing with dermatological toxicity and how it affects the patient’s quality of life.

N: All right. And I think we should be aware that the socioesthetic component can induce important psychological impacts, which is why communication and trust-relationship with the patient are key factors in holistic care.

T: Exactly. But, for now, what about the medical aspect?

N: Well, I guess we’d recommend the use of topical corticoids if symptoms are not serious, depending all the same on the body surface area and the pain level that should be assessed on the visual analogue scale. But also, we’d advise antibiotics in some cases.

T: And why do you think that the aesthetic aspect is as important as medical treatment?

N: We have to take into account not only the patients’ medical condition, but also, their psychological state, social, financial and family environments, and maybe also mostly their return to work, which is why physical appearance is also preponderant.

T: Your quite right, as hair loss, erythroderma, pruritis, hyperpigmentation, desquamation and dryness of skin, and also hyperkeratosis, and other side effects, might make people repulsive, which would have a serious influen ce on the patient’s body and self-images.

N: Not to mention the instrumental and elementary activities of daily living that might be affected. I mean, for instance, going for grocery shopping, preparing one’s meals, using the phone, putting on and taking off clothing, having a shower or bath, and what not, which one of my occupational therapy friends told me about. This is why, by the way, occupational therapists educate some cancer patients on how to make their own adapted clothes and how to use transfer boards in and out of the bathroom, among other activities of daily life.

T: And what about body hygiene measures?

N: I read that if roughness of the skin and fissures around the lips, nails, articulations, phalanges and heels appear, emollient lotions with milk ingredients should be used, and when bathing, to use warm water, thus avoiding hot showers and baths. Also, cotton wear is recommen ded. And when going out, sun protection products are needed.

T: I’m glad to see that you’re much informed on the subject, and believe that your internship will go fine and smoothly


Oncodermatology service

Service d’oncodermatologie

Aesthetic and medical care

Soins esthétiques et médicaux

Comply with treatment

Adhérer au traitement

Trust relationship

Relation de confiance

Hair loss Perte de cheveux







Dryness of skin

Sécheresse cutanée

Emollient lotion

Lotion émolliente


Estime de soi

Common phrases

Chemotherapy can have repercussions on skin and its appendages, including hair, fingernails and other body parts.

→ La chimiothérapie peut avoir des répercussions sur la peau et au niveau des phanères, y compris les poils, les ongles et autres parties du corps.

Symptoms should be detected and treated by aesthetic and medical care as soon as possible.

→ Les symptômes devraient être détectés et traités esthétiquement et médicalement le plus tôt possible.

We should be aware that the socioesthetic component can induce important psychological impacts.

→ Il faut être conscient que la composante socio-esthétique peut induire des impacts psychologiques.

We’d recommend the use of corticoids and antibiotics in some cases.

→ Dans certains cas, les corticoïdes et les antibiotiques sont recommandés.

Side effects of chemotherapy on skin might have a serious influence on the patient’s body and self-images.

→ Les effets secondaires de la chimiothérapie sur la peau pourraient avoir une influence considérable sur l’image de soi.

In case roughness of the skin and fissures around the lips, nails, phalanges, and heels appear, emollient lotions should be used.

→ Il est conseillé d’appliquer des lotions émollientes en cas de rugosité et fissures de la peau autour des lèvres, des ongles, des phalanges et des talons.